from Hopkins: The Mystic Poets,
"A Short Introduction to Hopkins's Mysticism,"
is a poet of the spirit, but he is also one of our greatest
innovators when it comes to seeing the natural world. For
example, in his unique vision:
is “wiry and white-fiery” and “whirlwind-swivelled.”
Clouds become “silk-sacks.”
Stars are “circle-citadels.”
Violent seas are “rash smart sloggering brine.”
the words themselves do not make sense, but the combination
of words, and the sound of them, does.
is imaged in “the bent world’s brink.”
The riverbank, “wind-wandering weed-winding.”
mysticism also combines these two themes: love for the natural
world and passion for Christ. Hopkins refers to Jesus using images of
creation: “womb-of-all, home-of-all”; he refers to Christ as Savior
“ our passion-plungèd giant risen.” Many books have been written
this Jesuit’s unusual love and attachment for Jesus Christ, as seen in
the images of his poems. Most directly he united his love for the natural
world--and his vision of it--with his greater beloved, Christ. Like
Blake before him, Hopkins had mystical visions of God in the natural world.
reading the poems, we may sometimes wonder if the world Hopkins
inhabited was the same one as our own. How do mystics see the natural
world and the Divine as so completely intertwined? How can we live in
the earthly world yet be ever conscious of the presence of God? An
insight into the answer is offered in a journal entry that Hopkins wrote
in September 1870. After a lyrical description of his first sight of the
northern lights, he continued: “This busy working of nature wholly
independent of the earth and seeming to go on in a strain of time not
reckoned by our reckoning of days and years but simpler and as if
correcting the preoccupation of the world and by being preoccupied
with and appealing to and dated to the day of judgment was like a new
witness to God and filled me with delightful fear.” For
mystics like him, from Hafiz to Blake to Sri Ramakrishna, all
creation led to the Divine.
The Mystic Poets , preface by Rev. Thomas Ryan (Woodstock,
Vermont: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2004.) 17-18.
permission of Skylight
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